The committee charged with considering solutions to Rome’s housing shortage is still trying to figure out some parameters. The issue is needs, from basics to whatever “workforce” level is.
Examples: Devon Smyth from the Davies Shelters told of how she’s struggled to find affordable housing for people ready to get back into their own place, with jobs, when even public housing is swamped. Taylor Ritchie from the Rome Floyd Chamber told of a call she received from a recently relocated California woman who disability and access issues. The question was what’s available for someone with special needs.
Committee chair Wendy Davis again asked the committee to think differently. Everyone doesn’t need, or even want, the traditional two-vehicle garage. If something with a carport is available, at a more affordable price, where would they find those options, she asked.
Harry Brock of Appraisal Associates added some clarity to all of it by saying there are different markets and different options. What’s critical, he says, it all of it is needed.
One of the concerns heard Tuesday was infrastructure. That include running services to new areas for development but also some infill locations in the community. One builder talked about paying $14,000 to tap into existing services. County Commissioner Allison Watters says infrastructure should be a priority for using some of the COVID relief money coming to the city and county.
Brock also brought up the 23 houses on the Northwest Georgia Regional Hospital site that continue to sit vacant — a decade after the hospital was closed by the state. City Manager Sam Rich quickly said it was a “no go,” that the conversation has come up repeatedly. At issue is what happens to the site. (Look for the Rome Floyd Development Authority to get active in some potential solutions for the property and the stalemate between the state and the city).
Next meeting: Probably May 17.
APRIL SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON HOUSING MINUTES
Wendy Davis (Chair), Bill Temple, Walt Busby, Hannah Phillips, Taylor Ritchie, Sherrell Smith, Brian
Spears, Devon Smyth, Harry Brock, Allison Watters
Mark Cochran, Bonny Askew, Jamie Doss (Zoom), Sammy Rich, Artagus Newell, Brice Wood, Brittany
Griffin, Mike Hackett (Zoom), John Boyd (Zoom), Doug Walker, Jim Givens, Charlie Williams, Matt
Harper, Chris Forino, Missy Kendrick (Zoom), John Druckenmiller (Zoom), Colin Bennett (Zoom),
Catherine H (Zoom)
Chairperson Davis welcomed everyone to the meeting. Committee member Allison Watters stated that
new construction must be produced in the “missing middle” price range. She further discussed the need
for everyone to consider opportunities for different ways of living – living on one side of a duplex and
renting the other side, utilizing infill lots, tiny homes, cottage villages, etc. – in order to produce in this
price range. Davis stated that she wanted the committee to determine parameters for what is
considered “workforce housing”. Harry Brock stated that the term “workforce” should refer to a price
and not a demographic. Bill Temple reminded that he had asked for the population breakdown that fell
into the income categories in Rome and Floyd County. City Planner, Artagus Newell, provided the
following breakdown from the City of Rome’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan:
Household Income City of Rome Population Unincorporated Floyd County Population
<$15,000 22% 16%
$15,000-$35,000 27% 25%
$35,000-$50,000 16% 16%
$50,000-$100,000 23% 26%
>$100,000 13% 18%
*percentages are approximated
The statistical data shows that 65% of city households make less than $50,000 annually.
Davis confirmed that there is a definite housing and rental home shortage at all of these income levels.
The committee must now determine if there are some ways to incentivize builders to build in these
targeted segments. Davis mentioned that Charlie Williams and his partners have converted the old
Holiday Inn Skytop property into 200 furnished micro-apartments that will rent for $850/month
Davis stated that consultants have been officially hired to do a rewrite of the ULDC. Discussion included
changing some “pieces” of the ULDC or amending the ULDC in the interim while the rewrite process is
underway. Sammy Rich stated that city staff has been working on a list of the top things that would
need to be changed to enable immediate building to begin in infill areas. This list would then go through
the formal process of amending the ULDC through the Planning Commission and then to the City and
County Commission for approval. Rich reiterated that these changes can be made in the interim while
the ULDC rewrite is taking place.
Jim Givens commented that he feels that the only way to properly reach the low income price range by
utilizing infill lots is for the city to allow manufactured homes to be put in these lots. He believes that
builders will not want to build on infill lots in some of the areas where they are available. He also
mentioned that HUD provides 30 year financing on mobile homes less than 2 years old. Rich mentioned
that our Community Development department has been successfully building homes on the city’s lots of
record. Bekki Fox discussed that the Community Home Investment Program (CHIP) houses that are
currently being built through Community Development fit on a 50’ x 150’ or 60’ x 150’ size lot and are
sold at cost (approx. $97,750 for 1200 sq ft, but will be going up due to rising prices of framing
packages). She encouraged builders to utilize these infill lots for new construction and understands that
even though they may not make the amount of profit that they would make on a new house in a new
subdivision, that this is the area of need that the city is hoping to address. She further discussed the
success that they have had in the South Rome area and mentioned that they are branching out to other
neighborhoods in Rome.
Matt Harper stated that he feels that new inventory has to be created through new construction in new
subdivisions so that existing homeowners will upgrade thus increasing lower end inventory. Temple
agreed saying the challenge to this is that there is not enough sewer availability in the city and that this
was part of the multifaceted housing shortage issue. He added that the city should run speculative
sewer. Walt Busby told the group that he had several projects going on including a new subdivision on
North Broad in the city limits that they sold to Smith-Douglas Homes who will be building 70 houses in
the next 24 months. He also mentioned a project that is still in negotiation for 138 houses to be built by
Smith-Douglas Homes at the old BEAA golf course property in the county in the $165,000-$200,000 price
range. He mentioned again that builders need incentives/assistance to build across all price ranges. He
said that the $9000/lot cost to run water and sewer plus tap fees and the additional carrying costs in a
new subdivision would make it impossible for him to build houses in the $165,000 target range without
some sort of incentives. He stated that Bartow County has a large amount of existing subdivisions with
available lots and that it is cheaper for him to go to those areas to build than it is to develop new
subdivisions in Rome.
Davis asked that if the city were to waive the tap fees and help further with the
additional water/sewer costs, would he lower the price of the houses being built to help reach the
range. Busby stated that yes, that would help him lower the lot cost, resulting in a lower asking price for
the houses built. Busby also stated if tap fees were waived for infill lots, he would build on those. Bekki
Fox mentioned that the Land Bank Authority is working on a plan to provide local builders the
opportunity to build specific house plans at specified price points on parcels in existing urban
neighborhoods with tap fees waived by the city or paid for by the LBA.
The committee discussed several items that they recommend should be taken to the Planning
Commission for discussion including:
1-removing the minimum lot size requirement
2-allowing accessory dwelling units (including guest houses) on smaller lot sizes
3-residential cluster option – allow multi-units on smaller lots ; reduce parking requirements
The meeting concluded with more discussion of how to define “workforce housing” including
determining the range of salaries, range of rents and housing prices etc. The committee will discuss and
confirm the specifics of this definition in the next meeting. The committee’s next meeting is scheduled
for May 4th at 4:30 p.m.
Chairperson Davis adjourned the meeting at 6:16 p.m.
City Manager’s Office